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GUNS Magazine September 2010 - Page 18
• JOHN BARSNESS • aLL-TiMe FaVORiTeS Handloading the .38 Special and .357 Magnum. ore shooters handload the .38 Special and .357 Magnum than M any other handgun cartridges, despite the .38 being 108 years old. Even the “young” .357 celebrates three-quarters of a century this year. They’re lumped together, of course, because they’re also the oldest pair of popular “short and long” centerfire revolver rounds. One of the reasons the .357 is so popular is everything from mild to thumper loads can be easily purchased or made. Yet, the two rounds also allow for a certain degree of specialization. A light, short-barreled .38 is still very popular for concealed carry, despite the recent boom in small autoloaders. A small revolver is simpler and easier to use (and maintain) than any auto, and the .38 Special is also more powerful than the .380, the largest practical round for a small auto. At the other end of the spectrum, a heavier .357 is very accurate at any practical iron-sighted handgun range, and powerful enough for serious self-defense, whether in cities or the wilderness, as well as deer hunting. of .38s and .357s, from her S&W Airweight .38 to a 10" Thompson/ Center Contender barrel in .357. However, the T/C barrel went too much against the notion of the .357 as a “handy” sidearm, so I sent it down the road. Also, it was purchased primarily for hunting with heavier bullets, but with anything from 158 grains up, it didn’t show all that much gain in velocity over my 4" barreled S&W 66. (This may seem strange, but heavier bullets and slower powders tend to show the least velocity loss in any barrel, whether a handgun or a rifle.) and eventually traded it in for a brand new S&W Model 66. That 66 is still my main .38/.357, and has worked very well, especially with Crimson Trace Laser Grips. Of course, it wasn’t enough, and my wife Eileen and I have since owned a bunch Very Versatile Their versatility has increased in recent decades with better jacketed bullets, ranging from lightweights that can be driven very fast to deeppenetrating heavyweights like the 180-grain Nosler Partition. Yet, both are also very accurate with inexpensive lead bullets, whether commercial or home-cast, ranging from light wadcutters to hard heavyweights— and unlike autoloaders, revolvers easily handle a wide variety of power levels and bullet styles. My first .38 Special was a 4" S&W Model 10, a former police revolver purchased used when some department made the switch to high-capacity autos. Like many PD revolvers, it had been carried a lot but shot relatively little, so was in excellent mechanical shape. The trigger was a joy to pull, whether single action or double, and it also proved to be very accurate. I intended it to be my allaround carry revolver, in town and the woods, but even with warm loads I discovered (of course) it wasn’t a .357, 18 A medium-sized .357 like John’s S&W Model 66 is perhaps the most versatile handgun. Here it’s being used on Montana ground squirrels. ROSSi M84 S&W 66 S&W 66 S&W 10 S&W 66 GUN (MODeL) .38 SPeCiaL HaNDLOaDeD aMMO PeRFORMaNCe BULLeT POWDeR CHaRGe VeLOCiTY GROUP Size (BRaND, BULLeT WeiGHT, TYPe) (BRaND) (GRaiNS WeiGHT) (FPS) (iNCHeS) 110 Speer Gold Dot 110 Speer Gold Dot 125 Speer Gold Dot 148 Speer HBWC 158 Lyman 358156 Unique Unique AA No. 5 Red Dot Unique 5.4 6.3 7.0 3.0 5.0 989 1,143 976 756 982 2.56 1.39 1.91 1.54 1.91 .357 MaGNUM HaNDLOaDeD aMMO PeRFORMaNCe GUN BULLeT POWDeR CHaRGe VeLOCiTY GROUP Size (MODeL) (BRaND, BULLeT WeiGHT, TYPe) (BRaND) (GRaiNS WeiGHT) (FPS) (iNCHeS) S&W 125 Speer Gold Dot 2400 16.5 1,150 1.44 T/C 125 Speer Gold Dot 2400 16.5 1,591 1.31 S&W 158 Lyman 358156 Win. AP 8.0 1,117 2.34 T/C 158 Lyman 358156 Win. AP 8.0 1,252 2.56 S&W 180 Nosler Partition H110 13.5 1,128 1.89 T/C 180 Nosler Partition H110 13.5 1,258 1.82 Note the comparison of .357 Magnum loads from 4" S&W 66 and 10" T/C Contender barrel. WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • SEPTEMBER 2010